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August 20, 1998

WILL PSION’S SYMBIAN ALLIANCE LURE IN 3COM?

By CBR Staff Writer

So David Potter, chief executive officer of handheld computer vendor Psion, was not misleading everyone when he told us last year that the company had signed major third party licenses for its EPOC32 operating system (CI No 3,117). In July, the company announced a deal with Nokia Oy, LM Ericsson Telefon AB and Motorola Inc, who are forming, with Psion, a consortium to develop handheld internet access devices. The price that Psion had to pay was losing control of its software arm. Psion Software has now been folded into a new company, called Symbian Ltd, with shares split between Psion and the mobile telephone giants (CI No 3,439). The list of big-name vendors now linked with Symbian suggests it could grow into a big anti-Microsoft alliance, for those not keen to use Microsoft’s Windows CE operating system. Symbian itself denies it is looking for more partners, and insists it is not promoting itself as an investment vehicle for its shareholders to make a killing in the operating system market (CI No 3,445). But names of further partners continue to be talked about. Sun Microsystems has already denied rumors that it planned to take a 10% stake in Symbian, but a better bet could be 3Com Corp, whose PalmPilot product competes against Psion’s Series 5. According to 3Com marketing chief, Janice Roberts, the two companies are already in talks, initiated, she says by Psion. Symbian is no doubt interested in Graffiti, the pseudo- handwriting recognition software which forms the bedrock of PalmOS, which it could combine with EPOC for the next generation of intelligent mobile phone handsets. Or perhaps it is simply seeking comfort in numbers.

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